After 20 years under center in Foxboro, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have parted ways. As announced by various media outlets on Wednesday, Brady will join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a deal worth in excess of $30 million.
There has seemed a sense of inevitably that Brady would leave the Patriots this off-season. From the minute his interception cost the Patriots the chance to progress past the Tennessee Titans in the Wildcard Round of the NFL Playoffs, the rumours started. Would he retire? Would he test the free agency market? There’s been rumours before, but this year somehow seemed different.
Now, the New England Patriots will have to find a new starting quarterback.
How do you go about replacing a player that has delivered six Super Bowl rings to the franchise?
Tom Brady, alongside Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, has been synonymous with success in New England. From being a sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, to earning his first start against the Indianapolis Colts in 2001, to that final ill-fated throw against the Titans, Brady’s success has been unprecedented.
According to NFL.com, the Patriots will add a quarterback before the start of the 2020 NFL season. Here are the most likely options for the next starting quarterback in New England.
Free Agency or Trade
Tom Brady’s move to Tampa Bay is just one of a number of quarterback moves in the free agency frenzy so far. Philip Rivers has found a new home with the Indianapolis Colts. Nick Foles has been traded out of Jacksonville by the Jaguars. He will presumably replace Mitchell Trubisky as the starting quarterback of the Chicago Bears. Teddy Bridgewater agreed to a three-year, $63 million deal to become the new face of the Carolina Panthers.
With so many moves being made already, the Patriots run the risk of getting left behind. However, it appears they are in no rush to replace Brady.
The three most likely options are Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, and Cam Newton. All three come with risks attached.
Jameis Winston obviously was much maligned after throwing 30 interceptions in 2019. If Bruce Arians, the renowned quarterback whisperer, couldn’t fix the inherent problems with Winston’s game, then can anyone?
Cam Newton is an enigma. There is obvious talent there, after all Newton led the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50 in a year where he was voted the NFL MVP. He would give the Patriots an athletic quarterback option they haven’t had during the Brady era. Cam would open up Josh McDaniel’s offense in a way we haven’t seen before. With great talent also comes a chequered injury history. After years of consistent quarterback play from Tom Brady, would the Patriots be happy to risk a player who is coming back from surgery?
Then there’s Andy Dalton. The “Red Rifle” seems to be the most talked-about option for the New England Patriots. Dalton has shown that he can play to a high level in the NFL. Of the three quarterbacks that are most likely to land in New England via free agency or a trade, Dalton has the best career completion record and the lowest interception percentage. However, the biggest knock on Dalton’s career to date has been an inability to guide a team to success in the NFL Playoffs. That is something that is a mandatory requirement for a team used to having so much success.
One name that is worth mentioning as an under the radar solution is Derek Carr. The former Fresno State Bulldog has had a tumultuous relationship with Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. Will they look to a new quarterback as they start a new era in Las Vegas having added Marcus Mariota in free agency?
The NFL Draft
The New England Patriots currently hold the number 23 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Could they be in a position to select Tom Brady’s successor and start a whole new era in Foxboro?
This honestly seems the most unlikely scenario. There are several teams with quarterback needs and not enough quarterbacks with a first-round grade to fill them. Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert will be long gone by then with the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, and Los Angeles Chargers looking the most likely destinations for those prospects.
Even Utah State’s Jordan Love may be out of reach if the Patriots remain at pick 23.
Could the Patriots trade up to go and get the quarterback of the future?
It seems highly unlikely. Bill Belichick has a history of trading back in the first round in order to garner more picks rather than making a splashy trade to move up the draft board. Although the Patriots have 12 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, they have no second round or fifth-round picks, and a slew of late-round picks.
After losing a chunk of the linebacker group that made the 2019 defense so successful, I expect the Patriots to address other needs than the quarterback position early on in the draft.
Is the future of the New England Patriots quarterback position already in the building?
With Brady’s departure, just two quarterbacks are officially signed to the team for 2020. Cody Kessler arrived with the team in 2019 after being waived by the Philadelphia Eagles. Having never made the field in 2019, it seems unlikely that Kessler remains anything other than a backup, if he remains with the team at all.
The other is Jarrett Stidham, the fourth-round selection of the Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft. If the plan then was for him to be the eventual successor to Tom Brady, then the Patriots probably didn’t imagine it would be so soon.
Can Jarrett Stidham be the starting quarterback in 2020?
It would be a big leap to go from seeing extremely limited action in 2019 to running the Patriots offense in 2020. Stidham saw the field in just three games last year, in relief of Tom Brady during blow out wins over the Washington Redskins and New York Jets (twice). In those games, Stidham compiled a rather unflattering 50% completion percentage, whilst throwing an interception and being sacked, gaining just 14 yards on two completions.
Despite this, there are reasons to believe he could be successful as the starter in New England. Stidham looked impressive during pre-season last year and he’s spent a year learning from Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo had the same tuition at the hands of Brady and he guided the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.
Then there’s Stidham’s success at the college level. After an uncertain time at Baylor, he excelled playing in the SEC for Auburn. He guided them to the SEC West title in his first season with the program, earning SEC Newcomer of the Year honours in 2017. Although some people believe he regressed in 2018, he often was put in a bad situation behind a terrible offensive line. When he had time to play, he showed that he was still capable of making throws in crucial situations.
The Patriots have prided themselves on great offensive line play in recent years. One of the biggest moves of free agency was placing the franchise tag on Joe Thuney and they will look to keep him in the building. If they can provide a solid offensive line, Jarret Stidham can make the throws, provide athleticism, and use his high football IQ to run this offense.
The New England Patriots once found sustained success with a sixth-round selection in the NFL Draft. Can they do it again, this time with a fourth-round pick named Jarrett Stidham?